Ask Uncle James – Perfume problems? Our agony uncle has all the answers…

We’re so happy to have Uncle James (a.k.a professional fragrance consultant and expert, James Craven) on board with The Perfume Society. He’s the ‘agony uncle’ here to answer all your perfume problems and solve your scent woes…

In the first part of his answers to your queries, James explained where to spray fragrance to make it last longer and radiate on your skin, and how to go about choosing a ‘seasonal scent’. This time he’s been tapping away at his typewriter to help with questions about allergies and what fragrances might be best to start a budding 15 year old perfumista with.

Don’t forget you can ask your questions using the form below (scroll down) and they might get featured in the next edition of The Scented Letter Magazine. But for now, Uncle James, it’s over to you!

Uncle James Craven

I think I’m allergic to some fragrances as I get a rash on my skin and some make me sneeze. How do I find out what’s causing this, and any suggestions for how I can still enjoy fragrance? 

James says: Keep calm. Make a list of all the perfumes that you think have caused adverse reactions. Establish what notes they have in common by reading up on them online (I would of course point you in the direction of The Perfume Society), then by process of trial and error try to discover the ‘joker’ in the pack. The help of an experienced sales assistant in a sympathetic perfumery can be very useful here – and hopefully before very long at all, we will once again be able to venture into stores. Talking it over often clarifies matters no end and sudden enlightenment dawns.

Allergies come and go, often abruptly. Don’t automatically blame chemicals and synthetics: natural organic oils are now recognised as equally liable to be allergenic. Meanwhile you might still enjoy perfume as our ancestors did – anywhere but on the skin, so instead on scarves, the linings of coats, soft furnishings… And remember, sublime fragrances are all around us, not just confined to bottles.

Uncle James Craven

What styles of fragrance might be suitable for a 15-year-old who’s just starting to get into perfume? And how can I tell her to wear it so that it doesn’t overwhelm those around her? 

James says: Your young friend is lucky to have you. Most 15-year-olds love analysing themselves so encourage this young woman to do just that. Ask her to define her personality in her own mind, and then introduce her to the most empathetic sales consultant at your favourite perfumery. This maven – if worth her salt – will assist the young person in interpreting and expressing herself via a fragrance that fits like a handmade glove.

Youth is best showcased by light, subtle – but not necessarily naive –scents. We are all allowed a few garish fragrance mistakes as we develop our tastes, and perfume picking should always be fun. But I have found that most teenagers naturally actually tend to shyness and restraint when it comes to choosing and spraying fragrance.

I hope I have not grown cynical with the years – but the surest way to ensure an ingenue will NOT do something is to beg her to do that very thing. So maybe pass her the Giorgio and the Poison!

What questions have you always wanted to ask an expert? Put your perfume problems to Uncle James and he’ll get thinking…

Ask James Craven (The 'Perfume Agony Uncle')

Your questions for James Craven, The Perfume Society's 'Perfume Agony Uncle'
  • Could it be 'how do I know when a fragrance suits me?' or 'How can I make scent last longer on my skin?' or even 'Which fragrance should I wear to make me feel invincible?!'
  • (You can remain 'anonymous' if you wish, but please make up a nom de plume so we can separate questioners!)

Ask Uncle James – our new ‘agony uncle’ James Craven solves your perfume problems

We’ve a brand new team member for you to welcome – our agony uncle, James Craven (a.k.a. ‘Uncle James’). We asked you to pour out your perfume problems, Cologne conundrums and scented setbacks to him in The Scented Letter magazine, and with his years of experience and expert eloquence, he has answered!

‘Helping a client to find the perfect scent requires the combined skills of a psychologist, palmist and priest’ James always (half) jokes, and his career has been defined not only by the vast knowledge he’s gleaned over the years he’s worked in retail as a fragrance expert, but his ability to ‘match’ people to their perfect perfume and answer any number of queries.

 

 

The Perfumed Agony Uncle column debuts in the latest ‘Perfume’s Bright Future’ edition of our award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter, (free to VIP Subscribers, also available to purchase in glossy print form and via International Online Subscriptions) but we wanted to share some of his words of wisdom with you here, too.

Truly, what James doesn’t know about perfume could probably be written on the back of a stamp. His advice is gold dust, and so we’re sprinkling some of that here for you (along with many scented spritzes, of course!)

Where should I apply perfume so that it lasts? I know Marilyn Monroe apparently said she sprayed it wherever she wanted to be kissed, but I’m more interested in smelling fabulous all day! 

Uncle James says: ‘Crucially, apply to the pulse points of the body: these radiate heat, thus intensifying the expansion of perfume. But also spray on clean hair: being porous, hair is an excellent retainer and diffuser of scent. (If you’re worried about the alcohol in a perfume drying out hair, try one of the many, many hair fragrances which have been launched in the past few years.

Spray on washable natural fibre clothing and dab perfume on the eyebrows and ankles – yes, really! (They certainly do that in France, where they surely know a thing or two about the delights of parfum.) But please also understand that perfume is a poignantly fleeting pleasure : like a lovely piece of music it enchants and then it fades. Reapplication is a gracious and seductive ritual, not a chore. Enjoy it!’

Is it true that fragrances are seasonal and, if so, which styles of fragrance are best for spring?

Uncle James says: It’s certainly understandable that anyone might want to celebrate the emergence from an especially grim winter with a new scent for a ‘new you’. If you want to personify spring in your own aura, then try leafy greens (see the question below), light woody colognes and fresh florals that echo the stirring natural scents outside. You should always wear what excites and pleases you, and the start of a new season is a great time to kickstart exploring new scents, ingredients and fragrance families.’

Do you have a scent query you need solving? Don’t forget to add your questions for James in the form, below, for the next issue…

Ask James Craven (The 'Perfume Agony Uncle')

Your questions for James Craven, The Perfume Society's 'Perfume Agony Uncle'
  • Could it be 'how do I know when a fragrance suits me?' or 'How can I make scent last longer on my skin?' or even 'Which fragrance should I wear to make me feel invincible?!'
  • (You can remain 'anonymous' if you wish, but please make up a nom de plume so we can separate questioners!)

 

By Suzy Nightingale

Happy Birthday Chanel! N°5 – 100 years of celebrity

We’re ready to celebrate in more ways than one, not the least by saying Happy Birthday, Chanel. Incredibly, N°5 is celebrating 100 years of being adored by celebrities and fragrance fans the world over. We urge you to join in by spritzing some, now, while watching the fragrantly-themed full-length film and resting your eyes on gorgeousness awhile…

‘Its name is universally renowned. Its wake, a revolution. Its bottle, an unmatched masterpiece,’ says Chanel. ‘Created in 1921, N°5 is the best-known perfume in the world. The new episode of Inside CHANEL looks back over 100 years of celebrity.’

 

Delving deeply into just what makes it so enduringly special, Chanel explains that:

‘From the start, N°5 threw habits and conventions to the wind. At the beginning of the 1920s, Gabrielle Chanel had already changed people’s views on fashion by suggesting a new allure. Her first perfume is consistent with her pioneering designs, simple yet well thought through. Revolutionary in its composition, N°5 is also the first perfume imagined by a woman for women.’

Marilyn Monroe © Chanel

 

N°5 has spawned many iconic scent memories over the decades, ‘Whether it be Marilyn Monroe turning it into a myth by confessing she only wore a few drops in bed, or Andy Warhol screen printing it as a pop art icon.’ And did you know – N°5 was the perfume to be advertised on TV!

 

Chane N°5 © Chanel

 

The visual images accompanying N°5 have always been swoonsome, too (just cast your eyes around this page for proof) – inspiring some of the greatest names in photography and cinematography — including Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Ridley Scott, Jean-Paul Goude or Baz Luhrmann — and has truly ‘become a visual symbol that has never lost touch with the contemporary creative scene.’

 

Marion Cotillard © Chanel

 

The muses have been meticulously chose over these years as well – only those women who can emody the character of the fragrance without overshadowing it, such as Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman or (current ‘face’) Marion Cotillard have been ‘…among the ambassadresses who, by their spirit and modernity, lift N°5 into the eternal feminine pantheon for posterity.’

 

Happy Birthday, Chanel! © Chanel

 

From being included in museum exhibitions to countless scent memries we all share, we certainly agree that ‘It is a perfume which, like a coat of invisible armor, gives the strength to face life. Backed with its 100 years of celebrity, N°5 will always be one step ahead.’ That’s why we chose to continue the celebrations, while asking trend forecasters and fragrance experts how they think Chanel N°5 will sashay forth in the next 100 years – with a stunning spread in the just-published Perfume’s Bright Future issue of The Scented Letter Magazine.

 

 

VIP Subscribers can view online for free, or you can purchase glossy print copies, here, and International readers can buy a year-long online subscription, here.

However you choose to celebrate, we feel it’s time to spray on N°5 with abandon and shake our fragrant tail feathers as we look to our own futures with an increasing sense of joy…

By Suzy Nightingale

City of roses – the perfume capital of India

There’s an ancient city that’s become known as the perfume capital of India. Roses, roses everywhere! If ever you needed an excuse to feast your eyes on beauty, these seemingly endless dull, grey days are immediately brightened by reading this fascinating report by Rachna Sachasinh for National Geographic.

‘For centuries Kannauj (pronounced kunh-nowj), in northeast India’s Ganges belt, has been crafting oil-based botanical perfumes called attar using the world’s oldest known distillation methods,’ the piece begins, and as you gaze in wonder at the carpet of pink blossoms – and imagine with great longing the glorious scent in the air – it’s not hard to understand how the fragrances produced from the Rosa damascena shrubs planted there were soon ‘Sought after by both Mughal royals and everyday folk in ancient India’s fragrance-obsessed culture’, so that the ‘Kannauj attar scented everything from wrists to food, fountains to homes.’

We are thrilled to see the region showcased in the national media, now, for their utterly wonderful roses and fragrances produced from them, because Amanda Carr had already travelled to the city of roses, and last year wrote an exclusive report on The Scents of India for our magazine, The Scented Letter, for which she was nominated for a Jasmine Award, and which you can read in full, here!

 

It’s worth reminding ourselves that rose fragrances have been worn by both genders for centuries, too – it’s only Western and European cultures who more recently classed rose as ‘female’, and something the fragrance industry has begun to overturn (thank goodness!) by introducing many more rose-centric scents marketed at men or classed as ‘unisex’. We’ve said it many times before but we’ll go on saying it: smells do not have a gender – they’re for everyone who wants to wear them!

 

Indeed, the more recent National Geographic feature goes on to describe how the rose fragrances produced in Kannauj have proved ‘Equally alluring to men and women,’ because the ‘attars have an androgynous quality. They strike intense floral, woodsy, musky, smoky, green, or grassy notes. Trotted out by season, attars can be both warm (cloves, cardamom, saffron, oud) and cooling (jasmine, pandan, vetiver, marigold).’

I am lucky enough to have a little bottle of the Gulab (Indian Rose) attar from the Saini Blends distillery she visited, and which Amanda very kindly gave me when she returned from her travels. I cannot tell you the utter bliss it has been to wear it – a soft but fully enveloping cloud of powdery, fruity petals that almost smells like Turkish Delight sprinkled with icing sugar. Sheer joy, and a constant comfort to sniff and be reminded not only of our friendship, but of the wider world, of places I want to travel to, of beauty itself.

If you are interested in learning more about attars, I cannot urge you enough to read Amanda’s feature in full – there’s even a section on how to tell the attars apart, and how to order directly from Saini Blends themselves. It’s vital we not only celebrate this ancient art (and the fact that rose fragrances did not bloom unbidden from Grasse, originally) but support those who still work there. Because, as Amanda reported for us, ‘the attar industry in Kannauj has fallen to around 100 artisan makers today, from over 700 at its peak…’

By Suzy Nightingale

The Digital Future of Fragrance

In the just-published latest edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, we focus on The Future of Fragrance – a fascinating topic encompassing ingredient trends, design, technology and those people whose jobs bascially involve looking in to a crystal ball and working out what we’ll be wanting to smell like in the coming years.

One of the fragrance experts companies we’re regularly in touch with is CPL Aromas – a world-leading fragrance house whose focus is on innovation and creativity, forging the way fragrances smell with exclusive ingredients and fragrant design that eventually shapes what scents we choose to spray on our skin. In the Novel Ingredients feature, we explain several of their fascinating new notes – heading to your nose any day now! – but we’re also thrilled to share with you, here, the future predictions and insight of CPL UK’s Group Marketing Executive, Fomina Louis

”Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will.” Patrick Suskind in his 1985 novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Our digital world is soaked with moving pictures, words and sound. But scent, one of our most powerful senses from an emotional perspective, is often neglected by our online media. Whilst digital imagery uses just red, green and blue to create every other visible colour, it is considered far more complex to recreate a smell, since it doesn’t have the equivalent of “primary cartridges”. However, scent technology is making headway as the sense of smell seems to answer many of the demands of our present culture.

Enhancing uniqueness

Today we value sharing our personal experience with others around us, to claim our uniqueness. Often the consumer is presented with the possibility of ‘engineering’ individual moods for particular occasions or times of the day, in a similar way that a playlist would or making your own cup of coffee.

The answer to this in scent is a device made by the brand Cyrano. It is a scent speaker which uses a range of scent capsules to emit “playlists” of smells. Cyrano also allows users to create a mood melody and then send the combo to a friend through their app. The scent is paired with a video on the app so they travel through each scene: kind of like a scent-o-gram.

NOTA NOTA is another new concept of mixing perfume, a concept by which perfume becomes part of the user’s daily routine like coffee from a coffee machine, allowing the user to prepare and wear unique perfumes for every day, night, mood and event.

In terms of enhancing our experience, for theme park designers and filmmakers scent has long been another storytelling device, just like 3D or immersive audio. Amusement parks use scent projectors to evoke a sense that would otherwise be ignored. AR/VR developers are now investing in scent technologies. The advantage here is that to create a scent of “burning tyres” for a car racing video game, it’s not necessary to replicate every different note found in the odour of “burning tyres”, a heated rubber note along with smoky notes will be sufficient when the user sees a car racing in the VR headset at the same time the scent is released.

Subliminal Comfort

Over the last few decades, brands have used scent to give us something to associate them with, but also to make us feel at ease. We are always breathing; therefore, we are always smelling – but without us realising. The sense of smell is directly hardwired into our brain. We unconsciously use this information without awareness.

The brands doing it effectively are doing it without you realising. Take Nescafé, who have embedded the smell of ‘Nescafé coffee’ in their labels for decades, so you smell it off the shelf.

A similar tactic is also used by the London toyshop Hamleys, which pumps out the smell of piña colada during summer because it makes the parents linger longer. Smells can be distributed through a store as simply as with a fan, or via complete integration with an air-conditioning system. A lot of retail companies use this, and its purpose is to keep customers in the store, by creating this welcoming environment. And studies show that it works. It keeps people in the store longer, it helps people feel anchored in our personal space, making them feel comfortable with their shopping and in a lot of cases causing them to spend more money!

The Home & Nostalgia

Focusing on the sentimental values of individual customers is the new marketing mantra. Japanese device “Scentee Machina” is called the next generation smart room diffuser equipped with AI technology, allowing users to control the fragrance via smartphone. This diffuser can integrate with the users’ calendar to prepare the house when he or she comes home. The device has two parts; the top carries the fragrance oil and the base connects to the internet, meaning that the users can tailor the program and control it through their smartphones based on their personal preferences. And, as the world’s first olfactory alarm clock, SensorWake has the potential to revolutionise our morning experience by a smell of hot croissants or coffee rather than a loud beeping noise!

Recently at the creation site of IKEA, Sweden, Students from the Royal College of Art, London attended a 2-day workshop to find new ways to express scent in the different parts of the home. The group projected numerous ideas like framing memories by scent – using doorframes and window frames. “The swing of a door will create the smell” said the student “but it will also support the particular memory in the future when you remember entering the home”.

It’s clear that smell is always modulating our mood and experience and that product developers have ample technologies and techniques for leveraging the sense of smell. Some of those exist today, but even more exciting ones lay ahead!’

[This article first appeared in Forecast, the trend magazine published by CPL Aromas vol 16 / Autumn Winter 2018 2019.]

The Scented Letter Magazine

Well you’re here, so we’re going to take it as read that you enjoy reading about fragrance! But now imagine a glossy magazine filled to brimming with the very latest news, reviews, full-length features and exclusive one-on-one interviews with the best noses in the world.

Described as ‘a must-read’ by industry-insiders and fragrance-lovers alike, we are proud as punch of The Scented Letter Magazine, and it seems the feeling’s mutual…

With multiple Jasmine Awards (the fragrance industry’s ‘Oscars’, awarded by The Fragrance Foundation) and guest articles by fellow award-winning journalists, we take a theme for each issue and explore it in gorgeously unashamed detail.

Our ethos is that fragrance should be open to everyone, and so our readers range from people around the world who adore perfume, perfumers themselves, founders of fragrance houses and PRs hungry for news they just don’t get to read anywhere else.

Expert opinions, breaking news, fragrant reviews, stunning photographs and in-depth interviews – your glossily beautiful 60-page PRINT edition of The Scented Letter – The Perfume Society‘s acclaimed magazine will open the doors to the world of fragrance no matter what your experience.

A niche-lover who’s amassed hundreds of bottles in their collection or a perfume newbie: you’re all included, and welcome to explore this exciting world that’s just waiting for your fingertips…

Our latest magazine is The Alphabet Issue, taking an A-Z look at everything from Aldehydes to Madame Zed (Lanvin’s mysterious perfumer, who nobody can trace). Take a sneak-peek here!

 

All issues of The Scented Letter can be purchased individually for £15 (£12.50 for VIP Club Members) or back-ordered if you fancy a catch-up. But don’t risk missing out, treat yourself or loved one to an Annual Print Subscription – an entire year of fragrant reading for £75 (including P&P), to be read, referred to and admired many times (so we’re told!)

Written by Suzy Nightingale